The Diffusion of Innovations theory seeks to explain how an innovation is introduced and adopted by individual users or organizations. Everett Rogers (1995), the theory’s main proponent in the field of communication studies, defines diffusion as “the process through which an innovation is communicated via certain channels over time among the units in a social system” (p. 5).
Elements of the Diffusions Model
From Rogers’ definition, we are acquainted with the following elements:
- Innovation: any idea or instrument (technology) perceived as new
- Communication Channel: the medium through which information is relayed
- Time: the rate of how fast an innovation is adopted
- Social System: the group of users sharing a common goal
Note how these key elements correspond with the concerns of technical communication:
Rogers also subsumes technology transfer – “the application of information into use” (2002: 338) – as under the stages of the diffusions model. Technology transfer is the strategic relay of information in order to implement a technological product. It implicates technical communication in guiding intended technology receptors with the installation, administration, and everyday usage of products.
Technology transfers contrast with the Diffusion of Innovations theory in certain areas, such as its producer-to-consumer orientation. Rogers describes technology transfers as “planned and directed” (2002: 329) because of its corporate basis, while diffusion of innovations is usually spontaneous and mobilization-centered.